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How to Progress Your Career in Product Management
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How to Progress Your Career in Product Management

How to Progress Your Career in Product Management

Building Great Products
August 10, 2021
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12 Jogs
Why it matters?

As a product manager, you are in charge of leading the development and launch of a company's products. You must be creative, analytical, and strategic to succeed in this position. In order to progress your career as a product manager, it is important to have certain skillsets that will set you apart from the rest. It is also important to continue to upgrade your skills on a consistent basis.

This blog post will explore these skillsets and provide some best practices so that you can take the next step in your career. As with everything in Joggo, we have summarized all of the content so you can efficiently work out where to optimize your time and dig in further.

The Content

Each link contains a summary produced by one of Joggo's geniuses so you can decide where to spend your time learning more

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Jennifer Emick
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Career Development Doc

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The Summary

Advice for designers to prioritize career development and design

  • Create a hub to track progress and context
  • Write operating principles to mutually understand management
  • Write a development plan to revisit goals and improve upon
  • Have a list of hype for self-reflection
  • Maximize resources to build skillset
June 20, 2016
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Sachin Rekhi
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3 Types of Product Managers: Builders, Tuners, Innovators

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The Summary

Product management specializations are emerging

  • Hiring managers look for product managers with skill sets depending on the specific product stage and challenges they are solving for

The 3 main specializations are:

  • Builders: drive the roadmap for an existing product in order to build ever more useful, usable, and delightful experiences. The recommended first step for product managers. Super powers:
    • Customer empathy
    • Ruthless prioritization
    • Sweat the details
  • Tuners: have an unwavering focus on a specific north star and do everything in their power to move that metric. Super powers:
    • Analytical ninja
    • Hypothesis-driver
    • Relish moving the needle 
  • Innovators: tasked with the incredibly challenging job of finding product/market fit for a brand new product. Super powers: 
    • Product intuition
    • Market understanding
    • Comfortable with ambiguity 

How to find the right PM specialization for you:

  • All of these types of product managers exist
  • At smaller startups, product managers’ specialization depends on product’s stage
  • Every product manager does work embodied in all 3 roles
  • Junior product managers should seek out experiences in all 3 roles to round out their product expertise
November 28, 2015
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Lulu Cheng
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Getting to “technical enough” as a product manager

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The Summary

Job descriptions for product managers often ask for someone "technical enough", but what does this mean?

Establish a baseline of technical understanding & invest more over time

Being "technical enough" involves the following: 1. Trace a user issue back to the underlying problem. 2. Estimate how long it will take to build A vs. B. 3. Anticipate implementation challenges. 4. Brainstorm potential solutions to technical problems. 5. Identify opportunities that arise from new technologies. Relative importance will vary depending on the product.

Some next steps roughly in order of importance:

  1. Start from a place of curiosity.
  2. Appreciate the creativity in engineering.
  3. Set aside time to pick an engineer's brain.
  4. Synthesize what you've learned into a shareable format.
  5. Use feedback & bug reports to pattern match different issues.
  6. Familiarize yourself with bits of the code base.
  7. Focus on core concepts.
  8. Develop a thick skin.

Build credibility by figuring out how you can add immediate value

Learning new skills take time. Identify how you can make an immediate impact. Here are some possibilities to consider: 1. Dig into the data. 2. Do the blocking & tackling work that keeps trains moving. 3. Lean into your experiences & strengths. 4. Provide a shared framework for decision-making. 5. Take the time to give your team broader context.

February 19, 2013
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Sachin Rekhi
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Sachin Rekhi

The Most Underrated Product Management Skill: Influence Without Authority

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The Summary

PMs own the product but don't manage the people who execute it. Need ability to influence others without direct authority.

Teams a PM influences

  • Product engineers, designers, testers
  • Other product teams
  • Other disciplines to leverage shared resources (e.g. marketing)
  • Executive team for resources and prioritizations

Influence without authority

  • Inspire others to share your vision and adopt it
  • Make their problems your own to achieve shared objectives
  • Relationships
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Ellen Chisa
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Aha!

The VP of Product vs. the Product Manager

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The Summary

Strategy

  • PM: Final say on product decisions, but not team structure decisions.
  • VP of Product: Decide where your product team lives within your organization.

Hiring

  • PM: Actively participate in hiring, and give important input on candidates' fit.
  • VP of Product: You decide what the team needs and when you need it. Hiring choices are yours to make.

Delegation

  • PM: You should know your product better than anyone. You handle the details.
  • VP of Product: Stay informed and ask "why," but trust your PM.

Standups

  • PM: Daily meetings with designers and engineers.
  • VP of Product: You go to executive team meetings. One big skill always applies: the ability to absorb feedback.
January 26, 2016
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Mike Belsito
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What Product VPs At High-Growth Startups Have In Common

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The Summary

Product VPs at high growth startups:

  1. They paid their dues.
    1. Most had at least 10 years of work experience and not exclusively product management. The most common backgrounds in marketing, engineering, and consulting.
  2. Backgrounds are flexible.
    1. Less than half of the product leaders had an engineering background.
  3. They tend to have advanced degrees and 1/3 went to school in the Silicon Valley.
  4. Most have never run their own business.
  5. Most had never lead product management before, but every head had some prior experience with product management.
  6. They lack diversity, only 3/18 were women.
December 16, 2011
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Adam Nash
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Psychohistory

Be a Great Product Leader

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The Summary

A strong product leader can help a cross-functional team of great technologies and designers work efficiently. They make things happen. The three responsibilities of a product manager are:

Product Strategy

  • What game are we playing and how do we keep scores?
  • It is important to clearly describe the game being played and the metrics used to analyze success
  • The results: aligned effort, better motivation, innovative ideas, and products that move the needle.

Prioritization

  • Involves ensuring that their initial work on their strategy and metrics is carried through to the phasing of projects
  • Phasing is crucial
    • Determining which ideas should be executed first 

Execution

  • Product specification
    • Clarity on what you’re building
  • Edge case decisions
    • Triaging decisions on complicated cases
  • Project management
    • Staying ahead of the game to avoid issues
  • Analytics
    • Running the numbers
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First Round Review

Find, Vet and Close the Best Product Managers 

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The Summary

Excellent Product Managers are identified based on three criteria of qualities: Must Have, Good to Have, and Bonus. The Must Have category includes communication, leadership, effective within the company culture, outstanding intellectual ability.

Playbook to Find, Interview, and Hire Excellent PMs:

  1. Finding candidates
    1. Finding a team of PMs with diverse experiences and backgrounds allows for competitive advantage against homogenous hiring processes.
    2. Look for a diverse group of PMs (candidates with Computer Science degrees, or with consulting or finance, Engineering, or marketing experience)
  2. Ideal Interview Process
    1. One-on-one phone screenings
    2. Superficial answers should give pause, genuine demonstrated interest about the space should intrigue.
    3. Panel Presentations Invite candidates to give presentations to a team of 8-10, evaluating how they handle engaging group dynamics, how they articulate and synthesize their ideas

Closing candidates

  • Targeting the rewards centers of the PM brain can help close a candidate that you love.
  • Most PMs crave having impact, sense of purpose/mission, growth, and autonomy.
  • Describe and communicate how they will get the rewards.
June 7, 2016
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Sachin Rekhi
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Product Management Career Ladders at 8 Top Technology Firms

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The Summary

Product organizations are a small proportion of a technology firm's R&D teams; therefore, they tend not to focus on developing the same formalized career ladders.

Most Common Dimensions of Advancement

  1. Independence
    1. Associate PMs & PMs are expected to operate with some independence & regular check-ins with their manager. Senior PMs & beyond should be without supervision.
    2. Seek out experiences that help you gain a breadth of experience across the product lifecycle.
  2. Product Scope
    1. This covers both the overall amount of product functionality that you drive as well as the complexity of product offerings you are responsible for.
    2. Focus on exhibiting mastery of given product area. Then work on increasing your scope.
  3. Leadership
    1. This involves exhibiting mastery of the core dimensions of product leadership within your feature team.
    2. Most careers in PM branch into 2 paths: individual contributor or people manager.
September 27, 2018
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Jackie Bavaro
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Medium

The surprising skills that help you succeed in your product management career as you get more senior

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The Summary

The career path of a PM requires adaptability, as well as a broad set of skills that you may need to pick up on the job.

Career growth within a role is about increasing scope, complexity, autonomy, and impact

  • Master the skills to deliver excellent work at your current scope and you’ll show you have what it takes to take on the next level

Career growth isn’t always fun — you need internal strength and confidence

  • As you take on more complex and ambiguous work, there’s no longer a clear right answer

Partner on your career goals with your boss

  • Frame the conversation as future-looking
  • The goal here is for your boss to think you’re coachable and open to feedback

Build trust deliberately

  • No matter how good you are at your job, you won’t get more responsibility if people don’t trust you
  • Judgment
    • Unpack why you’re making choices and share that framework
    • The best way to build up trust in your judgement is to be right most of the time
    • As you build up a reputation for great judgement, you’ll find good opportunities coming your way
  • Avoiding Surprises
    • Make sure to communicate early & often
  • Execution
    • Writing up your plans and making checklists can help people gain confidence in your execution

Learn how to get things done at your company

  • The point of the rules & processes is to get great work done, and if they’re getting in your way, you won’t get points for letting them slow you down

Connect your work to the Company Strategy and Articulate an Inspiring Vision

  • Don’t invest a huge amount of your energy into things that your leaders don’t think are valuable
  • Two ways to fix this
    • Shift the work you’re doing towards more valuable work
    • Reframe your work and explain to the company leaders why the work really matters

Make sure people across the company *want* to work with you

  • Collaboration is incredibly important for all PMs, and especially as you become more senior

Pick up great Side Projects

  • Side projects are a huge factor in accelerating your career growth
March 19, 2019
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Christina Gkofa
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Product Manager Career Path Options

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The Summary

A PM should be analytical, have time management skills, be detail oriented and know how to prioritize.

Product Management Career Paths

  • Junior/Associate Product Manager
    • Entry level
    • Manages small scale features
  • Mid-level Product Manager
    • Creates product initiatives that support strategy
  • Senior Product Manager
    • Coaches directly and leads Junior PMs
    • Looks at broader product process
  • Director of Product Management
    • Mentor
    • Leverages strength of product teams
  • VP of Product Management
    • Strategic
    • Budgets for product organization
    • Protects product team from internal conflict
  • Chief Product Officer
    • Deals with product portfolio
    • Budgets
    • Research
February 20, 2019
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Erin Chan
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Medium

The Hard Thing About Complex Products & How I’ve Grown as a PM

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The Summary

Complex products require a higher degree of awareness and sensitivity. Major issues can lurk underneath the surface and aren’t always straightforward to resolve when they eventually do surface.

Lesson One: Be Accountable for the Size of the Team

  • Mind the team
    • Take an active part in the hiring process
  • Address concerns
    • Voice your opinion if you feel that the size of the team doesn’t match the expected outputs
  • Direct the focus
    • Actively ensure that everyone is focused on the project goals
  • Ensure health
    • Work with the UX Lead and Engineering Lead of the team to ensure that team health is strong

Lesson Two: Be Accountable for the Skillset of the Team

  • Create an outline
    • Create an initial plan for the work needed to build the product that satisfies your team’s goals
  • Mind the team
    • Assess the size, skill, and experience of your team — including your own capabilities
  • Fill the gaps
    • If there are knowledge gaps, put mechanisms in place to help the team to ramp up properly and quickly in those areas
  • Adjust the team
    • If you don’t believe that you have the right team, escalate and make team member adjustments

Lesson Three: Create Robust Communication Plans

  • Plan to communicate
    • Develop a detailed communication plan
  • Plan to travel
    • Create a structured travel plan to which both the Leadership and leaders of the product team can commit to meet in-person on a regular basis
  • Seek to restructure
    • See there is potential for the team to switch under a local leadership team

Lesson Four: Set Project Tripwires

  • Assess the landscape
    • Identify if your product is or could be a suitable candidate for a tripwire strategy
  • Create tripwires
    • Create a tripwire strategy, along with an action plan to resolve each contributing issue when tripwires are set off

Lesson Five: Set Personal Tripwires

  • Acknowledge YOU
    • Listen to your intuition
  • Create tripwires
    • Identify the personal tripwire indicators that would raise red flags
  • Gather your people
    • Share these tripwires with the people around you that you trust the most